mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Credulous Times”: Grasping At Straws In The Wind, What Has Happened To Journalism At The New York Times?

If you are a regular reader of the New York Times, and tend to think of it not just as a Newspaper of Record, but as an institution with unimpeachable standards of journalistic objectivity and excellence, you might want to give a gander to a scathing piece by New America’s Peter Bergen at CNN about the New York Times Magazine cover story suggesting the official story of Osama bin Laden’s assassination was a pack of trumped-up lies. Seems its author, Jonathan Mahler, is largely buying a conspiracy theory hatched by the famed muckraking journalist Seymour Hersh back in the spring, which was pretty thoroughly challenged at the time–by among others Bergen, who wrote a well-regarded book on the pursuit and killing of bin Laden.

[A]s I wrote in May when Hersh’s story first appeared, his account of the bin Laden raid is a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense.

As Berger notes, both Hersh and Mahler paint a picture of US-Pakistani complicity in a handover of bin Laden followed by a deliberately fabricated “firefight” that contradicts other Times reporters who cover Pakistan and the U.S. intelligence community.

Among those sharing in the Big Lie of bin Laden’s capture and assassination if these lurid tales are true, of course, is not only the President of the United States but his most likely Democratic successor, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

One of those supposed liars would also be the woman who may well be the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton. By the way, give her an Oscar for acting for her performance when the iconic photograph was taken at the White House as the bin Laden raid went down, the one in which Clinton has her hand over her mouth in disbelief and anxiety so uncertain was the outcome of the raid.

Hmmm. Seems like there’s another recent line of reporting at the Times that is focused on showing that Hillary Clinton’s an untrustworthy liar, eh?

I don’t know that there’s a connection, but without question, certain elements at the Times are showing some surprising credulity at any straws in the wind that can be used to build the facade of a case against Obama and Clinton.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 19, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists, The New York Times | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Legend In His Own Mind”: McCain Was Just As Wrong About Afghanistan And Pakistan

The only thing worse than a policymaker who’s nearly always wrong is a misguided policymaker who falsely believes he’s always right. Take Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, reflecting on the credibility he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) still pretend to enjoy.

McCain said that Paul, Rubio and Cruz all come to him for foreign policy advice and that he’s not surprised that Republicans still lean on him for his views. McCain said his advice is still popular among Republicans because lawmakers are looking to be led by “who’s highly regarded” – and that means the two amigos.

“We have had long experience and haven’t been wrong,” McCain said.

I honestly had every intention of avoiding McCain content for a while, but seeing the Arizona Republican boast about his track record and credibility is a bit too much to take.

Two weeks ago, for example, McCain complained about the prisoner swap that freed an American POW despite having already endorsed the exact same plan. After getting caught, McCain falsely accused his critics of “lying.” He then suggested the detainees were “responsible for 9/11,” which didn’t make any sense.

Soon after, the senator told a national television audience, “We had literally no casualties there in Iraq during the last period after the surge was over.” That’s ridiculously untrue.

McCain then argued that militants holding prisoners don’t kill Americans, followed by the senator leaving policy briefings before they’re done so he can repeat false talking points for the cameras.

McCain then demanded that the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack in Benghazi be brought to Guantanamo Bay, telling reporters, “It’s where we put terrorists when we apprehend them.” In reality, (a) that’s not even close to being true; (b) sending Abu Khattala to the detention facility probably wouldn’t be legal, and (c) McCain doesn’t seem to remember his own position, which is that the Guantanamo prison be closed.

McCain is convinced he hasn’t “been wrong”? These are just the more notable mistakes from the last two weeks.

The senator’s track record is all the more appalling when considered in its entirety. As Rachel noted on the show a couple of days ago, following another round of McCain interviews on U.S. policy in Iraq, “Let the record show, John McCain was wrong about Iraq and the war in Iraq, in almost every way that a person can be wrong about something like that. He was wrong about Saddam having weapons. He was wrong about how long the war would take. He was wrong about how big the war would be. He famously said that as far as he was concerned, he thought that maybe Saddam sent the anthrax attacks. John McCain was wrong about whether there might ever be any trouble between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq.”

What’s more, following up on a post from last week, our pals at “All in with Chris Hayes” did a nice job last night pulling together some of the evidence documenting how wrong McCain has been about U.S. policy in Iraq.

Of course, this is a small sampling. I’m also reminded of this Frank Rich piece from 2009.

[McCain] made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this.

Let’s also not forget this Maddow Show segment from November 2012, in which Rachel explained, “Even if you’re just in Congress, even if you’re just the opposition, you need to know what you’re talking about. You need to have a basic level of competence. And doing what John McCain says is not a reasonable substitution for basic competence on this subject. Pick somebody else.”

Remember, there are two main angles here. The first is that McCain’s track record on his signature issue is genuinely atrocious. But the second is that McCain remains absolutely convinced of his own self-righteous credibility. When he boasts that he and his closest ally “haven’t been wrong,” this isn’t the punchline to a ridiculous joke; he actually means it.

Dana Milbank asked this morning whether anyone is still listening to McCain. It’s tempting to also ask why anyone should.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Iraq War, John McCain | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take Note, Tea Party: Government Workers Got Osama bin Laden

To  the anti-union governors, the Tea Partyers, the whiner down the street who is  convinced that everyone in the public sector enjoys a high salary and benefits  for doing a cushy job, let us consider the government worker whose effort we  have witnessed in the past week.

Let’s start with all the career  intelligence staffers—and this includes those who worked under the Bush  administration—who have been looking for clues for a decade to chase down and  capture or kill Osama bin Laden. These include people who may have had small  successes that led to last week’s big success. Or they may have had enormous  successes we don’t even know about: Who can say how many major terrorist  attacks our teams at the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the Pentagon have averted through good intelligence work? They can’t  say. It would endanger their work. And when people complain about what they do—or don’t do—they just have to suck it up and keep quiet, lest they tip off  terrorists.

There are some pretty high-level  government workers to thank—President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton. First, kudos to Obama for offering Clinton the job at State after a  bruising and testy primary fight. Kudos to Clinton, as well, for accepting it.  Being in government service, at any level, means setting aside personal gripes  for the sake of the public. They both did that. And if Clinton had a problem  with the United States going into Pakistan to get bin Laden—an idea she questioned during the primary  campaign—she surely got over it, and presumably was deeply involved in the  diplomatic gymnastics required before and after the raid.

And how about the Navy SEALs, who  are, after all, government workers as well? They conducted a brilliant surgical  strike on the most wanted man in the world, and we will likely never know their  names, never be able to approach them on the street just to say thanks. They’re  used to that; they are, I imagine, OK with that. Service isn’t about personal  aggrandizement or fame. It’s about doing your job, sometimes anonymously.

And underneath these teams are the  support staff who helped the intelligence workers and high-ranking officials  and military people do their jobs. They, too, helped make this mission happen.

To the antigovernment forces who  repeatedly ask the (hopefully) rhetorical question, “What good is government?  Name me one government program that has worked.” Of course, we can start with  roads and bridges, public libraries, Social Security, public education, and a  raft of other items. But for those who can’t even see the value in those public  works, we have the teams that worked for a decade, over two administrations, to  get bin Laden. This is what your government does, and it was carried out by  government workers. They deserve thanks—not derision.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and Worl Report, May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Conservatives, Democracy, Foreign Policy, GOP, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle East, National Security, Neo-Cons, Pentagon, Politics, President Obama, Public Employees, Republicans, Tea Party, Terrorism, Union Busting, Unions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture Wasn’t The Key To Finding Osama bin Laden

It wasn’t torture that revealed Osama bin Laden’s hiding place.Finding and killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist took years of patient intelligence-gathering and dogged detective work, plus a little luck.

Once again, it appears, we’re supposed to be having a “debate” about torture — excuse me, I mean the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, that were authorized and practiced during the Bush administration. In fact, there’s nothing debatable about torture. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and there’s no way to prove that the evidence it yields could not be obtained through conventional methods.

President Obama ended these practices. Torture remained a stain on our national honor, but one that was beginning to fade — until details of the hunt for bin Laden began to emerge.

According to widespread reports, the first important clue in the long chain leading to bin Laden’s lair came in 2004 from a Pakistani-born detainee named Hassan Ghul, who was held in one of the CIA’s secret “black site” prisons and subjected to coercive interrogation. Ghul was not waterboarded but may have been offered other items on the menu, including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and being placed in painful “stress positions” for hours at a time.

Ghul reportedly disclosed the nom de guerre of an al-Qaeda courier — Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — who appeared to have access to the terrorist organization’s inner circle. The CIA was able to deduce that Ghul was referring to a man they had heard of before, a trusted aide who might know where bin Laden was hiding.

Two of the highest-ranking al-Qaeda leaders who were taken into U.S. custody — operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded repeatedly, and Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was not waterboarded but was subjected to other harsh interrogation techniques — pointedly declined to talk about al-Kuwaiti. Ghul, however, described al-Kuwaiti as a close associate and protege of both Mohammed and al-Libi. CIA analysts believed they might be on the right track.

It was, of course, just one of many tracks that might have led to bin Laden. This and other trails went hot and cold until last summer, when al-Kuwaiti made a phone call to someone being monitored by U.S. intelligence, who then watched his movements until he led them in August to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was cornered and killed.

Torture apologists are saying, “See, it worked.” But the truth is that there’s no proof — and not even any legitimate evidence — that torture cracked the case.

It’s true, apparently, that Ghul opened up to interrogators after being roughed up in some fashion. It’s not clear that he was ever subjected to techniques that amount to torture, but let’s assume he was. The question is whether such treatment was necessary to get Ghul to talk.

And there’s no way to prove it was. Many experienced interrogators believe that torture is counterproductive — that it produces so much unreliable information that it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. These experts believe that noncoercive techniques are far more effective because when the subject does begin to talk, more truth than falsehood comes out.

Torture apologists often concoct hypothetical “ticking bomb” scenarios to validate coercion, including the infliction of pain. But this was a real-world scenario of slowly collecting names, dates, addresses, phone numbers and other disconnected bits of information, over seven years, before finally being able to put them all together.

Would al-Kuwaiti’s name and role have been extracted anyway, from Ghul or some other detainee, without coercive interrogation? If the two al-Qaeda higher-ups hadn’t been subjected to harsh techniques, could they still have been led to cooperate with their questioners? Would they still have dissembled, tellingly, when asked about the courier who eventually led us to bin Laden?

I believe the odds are quite good that the CIA would have gotten onto al-Kuwaiti’s trail somehow or other. But I can’t be certain — just as those who defend torture and coercive interrogation can’t be sure that these odious methods made the daring and successful raid possible.

What I do know is that torture is a violation of U.S. and international law — and a betrayal of everything this country stands for. The killing of bin Laden resulted from brilliant intelligence work, for which both the Bush and Obama administrations deserve our thanks and praise.

There’s plenty of credit to go around — but not for torture. We should celebrate the victory of cherished American values, not their temporary abandonment.

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 5, 2011

.

May 6, 2011 Posted by | 911, Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, GITMO, Homeland Security, Ideology, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tortured Logic Of Enhanced Interrogation

Did torture work? This is the question everyone is asking after Osama bin Laden’s death and the revelation that his fate was sealed by the identification of a courier whose nom de guerre emerged from the interrogation of top al Qaeda operatives who were known to have been subjected to waterboarding and similar techniques. “Did brutal interrogations produce the intelligence that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden?” a May 3 New York Timesstory asked.

This is hardly the first time we’ve had this debate. In 2006, my team of interrogators in Iraq located local al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by identifying and following one of his spiritual advisors, Abu Abd al-Rahman. Eric Maddox, a U.S. Army interrogator, found Saddam Husseinby similar means, identifying his former bodyguards. It’s these little pieces of information that form the mosaic that gradually leads to a breakthrough. But how best to get those little pieces?

Current and former U.S. officials and their supporters have been quick to argue that “enhanced interrogation techniques” and waterboarding led to the identification of the courier’s alias, which started U.S. intelligence down the road to bin Laden. The day after the al Qaeda leader’s death was announced, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the House Homeland Security Committee chair, told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that “For those who say that waterboarding doesn’t work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information [from waterboarding] that directly led us to bin Laden.” John Yoo, the former U.S. Justice Department official who drafted the George W. Bush administration’s legal rationales for officially sanctioned torture, repeated the claim and praised“Bush’s interrogation and warrantless surveillance programs that produced this week’s actionable intelligence.” The torture bandwagon has started to kick into high gear. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In fact, the information about the existence of a courier working for bin Laden was provided by several detainees, not just waterboarded al Qaeda operatives Kalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi — we had one detainee in Iraq who provided information about a courier in 2006. The key pieces of information, however, were the courier’s real name and location. His family name was first uncovered by CIA assets in Pakistan through other sources. The NSA subsequently figured out his full real name and location from an intercepted phone call. Waterboarding had nothing to do with it.

Moreover, common sense dictates that all high-ranking leaders have couriers — and their nicknames do little to lead us to them. This is because many members of al Qaeda change names or take on a nom de guerre after joining for both operational security and cultural reasons. The names are often historically relevant figures in the history of Islam, like the Prophet Mohamed’s first follower, Abu Bakr. Think of it as the equivalent of a boxer taking on a nickname like “The Bruiser.”

Understanding these cultural nuances is just one critical skill interrogators must have to be effective. The other is an understanding of the social science behind interrogations, which tells us that torture has an extremely negative effect on memory. An interrogator needs timely and accurate intelligence information, not just made-up babble.

What torture has proven is exactly what experienced interrogators have said all along: First, when tortured, detainees will give only the minimum amount of information necessary to stop the pain. No interrogator should ever be hoping to extract the least amount of information. Second, under coercion, detainees give misleading information that wastes time and resources — a false nickname, for example. Finally, it’s impossible to know what information the detainee would have disclosed under non-coercive interrogations.

But to understand the question “Does torture work?” one must also define “work.” If we include all the long-term negative consequences of torture, that answer becomes very clear. Those consequences include the fact that torture handed al Qaeda its No. 1 recruiting tool, a fact confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense’s interrogators in Iraq who questioned foreign fighters about why they had come there to fight. (I have first-hand knowledge of this information because I oversaw many of these interrogations and was briefed on the aggregate results.) In addition, future detainees will be unwilling to cooperate from the onset of an interrogation because they view all Americans as torturers. I heard this repeatedly in Iraq, where some detainees accused us of being the same as the guards at Abu Ghraib.

The more you think about, the less sense torture makes. U.S. allies will become unwilling to conduct joint operations if they are concerned about how detainees will be treated in U.S. custody (an argument made by the 9/11 Commission, among others). And future enemies will use our actions as justification to torture American captives. Torture also lowers our ethical standards to those of our enemies, an ugly shift that spreads like a virus throughout the Armed Services; witness the abuses of Abu Ghraib or the recent murders of civilians in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, we should be talking about the morality of torture, not its efficacy. When the U.S. infantry becomes bogged down in a tough battle, they don’t turn to chemical weapons even though they are extremely effective. The reason they don’t is because such weapons are illegal and immoral.

During the Revolutionary War, one top general made the point that torture was inconsistent with the fundamental beliefs of our founding fathers. “Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to insure any [prisoner] … I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require,” he wrote to his troops in the Northern Expeditionary Force in the first year of the war. The general in question was George Washington. There’s a reason we pledge to believe in “liberty and justice for all” and not “liberty and security for all”: It’s because we place our values and principles higher than we place our security. When we cease to do so, we forfeit our right to be called Americans.

We cannot become our enemy in trying to defeat him. American interrogators safely guided us through World War II without the use of torture, fighting an enemy and interrogating prisoners every bit as brutal and dedicated as the members of al Qaeda. Our interrogators continue to prove time and time again that they are smart enough to outwit al Qaeda’s best and brightest. No one should ever doubt that we have the mental and ethical fortitude to win this war — and to do it without lowering ourselves to the level of our foes.

By: Matthew Alexander, Foreign Policy, May 4, 2011

May 6, 2011 Posted by | 911, Democracy, Foreign Policy, GITMO, Government, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Ideology, Middle East, Military Intervention, National Security, Neo-Cons, Pentagon, Politics, President Obama, Right Wing, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: